Who are school governors?

Governors are Britain’s biggest volunteer group, with over 300,000 in schools across the country. They come from all walks of life and bring a range of skills to governing bodies. You don’t have to be an education professional to be a governor, but you do have to be passionate about education and be willing to commit some of your free time to work with the school.

What do school governors do?

Governing bodies are the strategic leaders of our schools and have a vital role to play in making sure every child gets the best possible education. The purpose of governing bodies is to ‘conduct the school with a view to promoting high standards of educational achievement at the school’.

In all types of schools, governing bodies should have a strong focus on three core functions:

  • ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction for the school
  • holding the headteacher to account for the educational performance of the school and its pupils
  • overseeing the financial performance of the school and making sure its money is well spent.

An effective governing body is a source of tremendous strength for the school and helps its leaders cope with major issues and handle change.

Governing bodies do not

  • inspect the school
  • have involvement in the day-to-day running of the school
  • authorise all expenditure
  • decide which pupils will be admitted to the school
  • decide how pupils are taught individual subjects.

Governors do not

Have powers as individuals, as any powers and legal rights are with the governing body as a group.

Governors need to

  • be fully committed to the role
  • be discreet, open minded and fair
  • be willing to raise questions constructively and participate in discussion and decision-making
  • be prepared to participate in the life of the school
  • have the time to attend governors meetings and training
  • be open to new ideas and ready to learn
  • act at all times with honesty and integrity and be ready to explain their actions and decisions to staff, pupils, parents and anyone with a legitimate interest in the school.

How much time does it take?

You must be willing to come to meetings, read paperwork and to get to know your school. Typically the governing body will meet once or twice a term for two or three hours. All governors are expected to participate in the work of at least one or two committees as well.

Most governors find that they spend at least 50 hours a year attending meetings and reading papers, but the role may require a considerable amount more time than that.

Do governors get paid?

No. Governors are volunteers and do not get paid.

Governors’ expenses and time off from work

The government considers it good practice for governing bodies to reimburse governors for expenses they incur. Expenses could include childcare, telephone and photocopying or travel costs.

Although governing bodies have the power to pay expenses they do not have to do so, and each governing body will decide on whether to adopt a policy on governors’ expenses. Please check with your governing body what their policy is if you are unsure.

Time off from work for governors’ duties

Employers must give you reasonable time off from work to carry out your duties as a school governor, but they do not have to pay you when you take time off. Governors should agree with their employer what is reasonable time off taking into account:

  • how much time is required overall to perform the duties
  • whether you are also being given time off from work for other activities
  • the particular circumstances of your employer's business
  • the likely effect that your absence may have on your employer's business.

If you are interested in being a governor in a Tower Hamlets school go to the section How to become a school governor.

Contact us

Governor services
Mulberry Place
5 Clove Crescent
London
E14 2BG
Tel: 020 7364 5000
Email: governors@towerhamlets.gov.uk